The theme of The Great Work of the Gospel by John Ensor “is about our human experience of God’s outworking grace” (p. 11). From its first chapter to the last, this well-paced book explores the power of God’s saving grace in the life of man. Ensor writes emphatically concerning the work of salvation, “But it is not a partnership. It is not ‘I do half and God does half.’ It is God’s work” (p. 15). Throughout, Ensor is quick to remind us that the work of grace in a believer’s life is God’s work; He is the sovereign craftsman building grace into our lives so as to produce a work that would glorify Him.
Ensor organizes his book around the central themes of the gospel, core truths that comprise what we would consider the saving message of Jesus Christ. He begins with the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation a sinner can have with God as he takes hold of God’s mercy. Because, as Ensor puts it, “God desires to make his mercy the apex of his own glory in the eyes of all creation” (p. 28). From that foundation of forgiveness, he moves through the entire process of salvation, from owning up to our guilt before God to pushing past our grudges by forgiving others just as generously as God forgives the repentant sinner. In between these two poles, we read about God’s holy wrath against sin, hope in God’s forgiving grace, Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God’s outworking grace, the wrath and mercy displayed on the cross, experiencing a clean conscience, and having a glad heart to obey God. In each chapter, the author displays a skillful handling of the Bible and a warm, personable tone that invites the reader in through real-life stories, vivid illustrations, and gripping quotes.
The book pulls no punches with regard to the “hard” matters of the Christian faith. On pages 32-33, he denounces, with gentleness and biblical reasoning, the modern psychological perspective which treats guilt as a negative, something to be treated rather than prayerfully examined. In his chapter on God’s judgment, he spends a good amount of time explaining and defending the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell for the unbeliever. He writes later on how many Christians “remain hamstrung by their secret guilt and are living very shallow lives…because they have nothing but a shallow understanding of the cross, and in many cases only a small appetite for learning more” (p. 97). And on the topic of a clean conscience, he writes with stunning insight, “The very question of self-forgiveness may reflect a resistance to glory in God’s mercy and a preference to grind our teeth for failing to be as good as our pride always assured us that we were” (p. 114). It is this “no holds barred” attitude toward the truth and toward error that makes for an invigorating read.
The author has given his life for service to the Lord. He works for women in need, establishing crisis pregnancy centers worldwide. So when he writes about forgiveness, sin, righteousness, hope, and joy, the readers get a sense that the author has experienced and clearly grasps these issues that he’s tackling. This is why when he ends on how the outworking of God’s grace motivates us to serving God in good deeds, we know that we are hearing from a man who practices what he preaches. This crowning chapter is really the height of the book, driving us out of our private reformations into works for the good of others. The examples he uses in this chapter are memorable. Overall, this book reminds us afresh that doctrine is powerful, motivating, captivating, and sorely need in our times with all “the feeble and anemic preaching of the age” (p. 160). It is a book that will re-center our minds and hearts around the center of it all: the gospel. – Jason Park, Christian Book Previews.com
For each of us, there comes a time in our lives when we want to know God's grace. But for some people, the gospel message of Christ's atoning sacrifice sounds too good to be true. Forgiveness is God's great work because it is all-inclusive and everlasting. In this book, John Ensor helps his readers understand the human experience of God's ongoing, outworking grace.